Which of these IT projects face the Tory axe?

Labour tech for the chop if Cameron and co get in

We know the general thrust of the Conservative take on government IT projects: money-sapping failure.

It's a position that dovetails nicely with another favourite line of opposition parties in the run-up to a general election -- that such initiatives are a bureaucratic waste of time and money and should be eradicated to fund front-line services/tax cuts/deficit reduction (delete as appropriate).

But when it comes down to it, which of the many Whitehall IT projects would a Tory government ditch?

The technology website silicon.com has delivered an interesting piece of research in an attempt to answer just that question.

Of the 11 big projects introduced by Labour since 1997, two will definitely be axed, five have a low chance of survival, one is in the balance and three should survive:

1. The National Programme for IT Chance of survival: Low
2. ID cards Chance of survival: None
3. ContactPoint Chance of survival: None
4. FiReControl Chance of survival: Low
5. The National DNA Database Chance of survival: High
6. Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act Chance of survival: Low
7. Interception Modernisation Programme Chance of survival: Low
8. Digital Britain Chance of survival: Low
9. e-Borders Chance of survival: Medium
10. Police Central e-Crime Unit Chance of survival: High
11. Defence Information Infrastructure Chance of survival: High

 

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Jon Bernstein, former deputy editor of New Statesman, is a digital strategist and editor. He tweets @Jon_Bernstein. 

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Scotland's vast deficit remains an obstacle to independence

Though the country's financial position has improved, independence would still risk severe austerity. 

For the SNP, the annual Scottish public spending figures bring good and bad news. The good news, such as it is, is that Scotland's deficit fell by £1.3bn in 2016/17. The bad news is that it remains £13.3bn or 8.3 per cent of GDP – three times the UK figure of 2.4 per cent (£46.2bn) and vastly higher than the white paper's worst case scenario of £5.5bn. 

These figures, it's important to note, include Scotland's geographic share of North Sea oil and gas revenue. The "oil bonus" that the SNP once boasted of has withered since the collapse in commodity prices. Though revenue rose from £56m the previous year to £208m, this remains a fraction of the £8bn recorded in 2011/12. Total public sector revenue was £312 per person below the UK average, while expenditure was £1,437 higher. Though the SNP is playing down the figures as "a snapshot", the white paper unambiguously stated: "GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances". 

As before, Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the threat posed by Brexit to the Scottish economy. But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose dramatic austerity. 

Sturgeon is undoubtedly right to warn of the risks of Brexit (particularly of the "hard" variety). But for a large number of Scots, this is merely cause to avoid the added turmoil of independence. Though eventual EU membership would benefit Scotland, its UK trade is worth four times as much as that with Europe. 

Of course, for a true nationalist, economics is irrelevant. Independence is a good in itself and sovereignty always trumps prosperity (a point on which Scottish nationalists align with English Brexiteers). But if Scotland is to ever depart the UK, the SNP will need to win over pragmatists, too. In that quest, Scotland's deficit remains a vast obstacle. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.